Picking Your Perfect Hat

Author: Joanna Zara

'Hat Season' is upon us!

But as gorgeous and fun as hats can be, it can be a bit daunting trying to find the perfect one. Which is why this week we've asked award-winning milliner Joanna Zara to lend her expertise on how to help take off the pressure and make the experience as enjoyable as possible - after all it should all be about you

A photo from our pop-up May event, featuring special guest Joanna Zara. See more photos and details here.

If you are the mother of the bride or groom, you are probably rushed off your feet thinking about everyone else but yourself. In any other circumstance, choosing a hat for a special occasion might be seen as a treat, but in your case it is in danger of becoming just another “chore” added to an ever growing list.

Or you may just be someone who hates shopping – we know you’re out there, and we want to help.

So here are my top hints and tips on choosing your ideal hat:

  1. Shape

It is really helpful to find out what hat shapes suit you best as this will save your trying on a lot of hats that were never going to suit you in the first place and will just sap your morale – download Joanna Zara's guide to choosing the right hat for your face shape here.

  1. Colour

This colour will be against your face and hair – so what are your “go to” colours – colours that you know always help you look your best? Professional advice can help here, and remember that there is usually a shade of each main colour (red, blue, yellow etc.) that will suit you. You can often tell which one is right by holding various versions of the same colour near your face when you don’t have any make up on. Notice which one “lights you up” and almost acts as virtual make up – that’s the one.

There is not usually any need to spend hours trying to match your hat to the exact colour of your shoes or handbag – in fact it can look odd if all your accessories are one colour.

Matching the oufit and hat colour is also not always a great idea – one can end up looking a bit too much like the Queen.

So instead think about accent colours – the right yellow can look stunning with navy; hot pinks look very sophisticated when paired with a cool neutral. And of course ivory with black is a classic combination (as long as black suits you – again, think about your “best” colours here).

If your outfit is in a printed fabric you have a hidden advantage – the designer has used his or her skill to select colours that definitely work together. So is there a key colour in the print that you could pick out for the hat?

"Summer straw in a wide brimmed fedora shape with a raffia and bead trim by Joanna Zara. Warm neutral that tones well with the glorious colours in the multi print of The-Bias-Cut.com's exclusive MJ cotton dress by Sika. Smart and stylish without being over formal."

  1. The Outfit

What is your outfit fabric? – a light cotton dress will look better with a relaxed summer straw like a Panama rather than a more formal hat and a more formal outfit needs a more formal hat to look “finished”

Also think about the details in our outfit: Are there any details in the construction or embellishment of the outfit that you could reflect in the hat?

  1. Hair

How will you wear your hair on the day? If it is going to be “up” you might not be able to wear a standard hat with a crown and a brim – why not try a “percher”, or a “saucer” attached to the side of a headband. 

Do you have curly hair that you are concerned might get “squashed” by a hat? You can either look out for hat styles that are made of softer construction with a bit of “give” (some of these might have an elasticated inner ribbon round the inside where it fits around your head – even better) or choose a headpiece that is fitted to the head with a headband.

  1. Other people

I know we promised this was all about you, but let’s take a brief moment to think about everyone else. What will the hat look like from the back? If you are going to be sitting near the front of a wedding ceremony for instance you owe it to those behind you to have something lovely to look at!

If you are mother of bride or groom, if you have a hat with a large brim, will it be possible to greet guests without bashing them on the forehead?

It may feel glamorous to hide seductively under a large brimmed hat, but will you show up in the photos? (however lovely your hat is everyone will want to see your face as well).

  1. Weather 

Are you going to wear your hat outdoors? Large downturned brims are very fashionable at the moment, but they need to be fitted well as the wind tends to catch them from underneath! Milliners have a few tricks up their sleeves to help you avoid this.

Bear in mind that most hats cannot be worn in the rain for anything other than the briefest and lightest of showers – so perhaps have a clear umbrella available on the day just in case.

Final thoughts!

After reading all this you may well be thinking – “but it’s going to be impossible to find a hat that does everything I want it too and works with my outfit”, so here comes our final piece of advice:

Why not choose your hat before you buy the rest of your outfit? – the truth is you will have far more choice of colour, size and styles of clothes than you will ever find for hats at the moment. So have fun and choose that “wow” hat for yourself first.


Find your perfect outfit and then consult with a milliner who can make the perfect hat for you. Recently I created some hats designed specifically to go with key pieces from the-Bias-Cut.com’s current SS collection (as featured in this post) – we hope you like them!

 "Black hat with silk flower and single quill trim: a flattering medium sized downturned brim designed to complement the feminine shape of The-Bias-Cut.com's Diane Dress by Emile Vidal Carr. Toning flower trim and gold quill echoing the gold of the zip detail. Traditional with a twist."


About the author:

 Joanna Zara is an award winning bespoke milliner  based in Hove, East Sussex. 
All her hats are made to  order, often designed in  close  collaboration with her  clients. Most hats and headpieces are made for special  occasions such as  weddings and the races, but  sometimes clients just  want to treat themselves to a bit  of everyday luxury, for  example by commissioning a  luxurious fedora in their  favourite colour. She is known  for her workmanship and attention to  detail. Last year  she won an open competition to  design a hat for Royal  Warrant holders Lock & Co of St  James’s. The hat is on sale in their shop and online. This led to a short internship in Lock’s couture millinery workshop, working alongside some of the best in the business. To find out more, click here.


Tags: Style Tips

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